The 2020 presidential race hinges on a few crucial subjects, including the federal legalization and decriminalization of cannabis on a national scale. For one thing, the American public demands it. Two-thirds of Americans agree that marijuana should be legal according to recent data from the Pew Research Center.
Aside from the vast majority, most of the candidates in the 2020 democratic presidential primary want to legalize cannabis and release people convicted for nonviolent cannabis-related crimes. While the split is mainly between those who think it should be legal altogether and those who believe that states should have the right to decide, there is one candidate who stands alone: Joe Biden.
Former vice-president Joe Biden has expressed his opposition to federally legalizing cannabis a few times within the last decade. His opposition to legalization can be documented back to 2010, though he has always supported the legislature that encourages the war on drugs.
In 2010, he said told ABC News that he thinks marijuana leads to other addictions. “I still believe it’s a gateway drug. I’ve spent a lot of my life as chairman of the [Senate] Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalize. The punishment should fit the crime. But I think legalization is a mistake.”
This year, his stance isn’t much different. In November, he expressed his skepticism with full legalization, saying it would be a “mistake to legalize.” He continued by saying, “I still believe it [cannabis] is a gateway drug’.
Days later, during a press conference call with reporters, he retracted his statement completely and changed his stance. After facing backlash from other Democratic contenders, he insisted he had never made such a claim, to begin with.
“I don’t think it is a gateway drug. There’s no evidence I’ve seen to suggest that,” Biden told Nevada Independent reporter Megan Messerly. “I didn’t [say that it was],” he added. “I said some say it’s a gateway drug.”
Joe Biden’s Actual Stance on Marijuana
In this video, Biden answers audience questions regarding cannabis and shows his support for medical marijuana and decriminalization and expresses his skepticism for full legalization. His goal for marijuana is decriminalization and expunging records of those previously convicted for cannabis-related crimes. He also believes that states should have the right to choose whether or not they want a recreational marijuana program in their states.
“With regard to the total legalization of it, there are some in the medical community who say it needs to be made a Schedule II drug so there can be more studies as not whether it is a gateway drug but whether when used in other combinations may have a negative effect on people overcoming other problems, including in fact on young people in terms of brain development, a whole range of things that are beyond my expertise,” Biden explained.
However, Biden has also adjusted and modernized his stance on harsh penalties for nonviolent cannabis-related crimes. He believes that cannabis should be decriminalized federally, but continue being a controlled substance.
“The truth of the matter is, there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it [cannabis] is a gateway drug,” Biden said. “It’s a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”